"We are hard-pressed on every side..." 2 Corinthians 4:8
I got some bad news since I last wrote. I have been preaching to myself since getting this news. I suspect that I am not the only bad news recipient.
I can think of several people right away who are enduring some very significant hardships with health, loss, job issues, children difficulties, and financial reversals. My goodness, listening to others talk about their troubles it does seem as though we are hard pressed on every side! Life is very hard here, and it is so easy to become discouraged and think it is all hopeless, and that things are never going to get any better.
The message I have delivered to myself over and over is that I want to glorify God by how I handle this. I want to represent Him well and give others- you- hope that while the immediate circumstances may really stink our God knows the end of the story and He promises to bring good out of whatever we are facing.
What does this mean in practical terms? It means that I must always keep in the forefront of my mind that God is completely sovereign over my circumstances. He has ordained the trial I am in the midst of, He has allowed it to overtake me. He could either prevent it from happening or remove it effortlessly if He so chose.
The fact that He has not chosen to do so is important and meaningful. God does not allow things for "no reason." All His actions are intentional and deliberate. He intends to accomplish something through this even if I cannot see what it is right now.
It also means that God is completely in control of this situation. Its onset, duration, and intensity are all well in hand despite my lack of understanding; despite my not knowing "why" this happened. It must not be needful for me to know the "why" of it, or I would know, for God would make it clear to me. I also don't need to know the end of the story yet. The fact that He knows is enough for I can fully trust Him and His wisdom.
Because God restrains evil for His own ends I can trust that nothing will afflict me that is beyond my ability to bear up under it (1 Cor 10:13). While I may be hard-pressed, I am not and will not be crushed. I may be perplexed but I will not despair. While I may feel persecuted I will never be forsaken by God. While I may get knocked down I will not be destroyed (2 Cor. 4:8-9).
What I possess in material goods is not my reward, it is not my crown. These things are nice to have, bring me comfort and happiness as I currently understand these two feelings to be, but they are nothing in comparison to what awaits me when I see Him as He is. The stuff is only on loan to me by God to add to my comfort, and enrich my human life. Money is earned by the skills He has given, and it is to be used at His discretion for His purposes. I am the vessel of His choice in these matters as are you.
Having this outlook on my bad news simply has to change how I view it and how I respond to it. When Paul says, "Therefore, we do not lose heart." (2 Cor. 4:16) it should give us great pause and we must consider for ourselves the reason you and I must not lose heart in our own difficulties and even in our misery.
I know, I know this is all temporary. This is a blip on the radar of my eternity and in the light of who I am in Christ it is essentially meaningless. You won't remember what my trial is, but you will remember how I react and respond to it. You may look at my response and determine you will follow in my footsteps and repeat as I am, "Therefore, we do not lose heart." These are light and momentary afflictions but they are gaining for me and for you the eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17)